The Real Yellow Rose of Texas

"A twenty year old named Emily West"

In 1830 the territory that was later to become the Republic of Texas was still governed by Mexican laws that prohibited slavery. Their were many men however, like James Morgan from Philadelphia who were eager to capitalize on the cheap land and business opportunities in the new Mexican colony. Morgan had 16 slaves that he wanted to bring to Texas with him, so he freed his slaves on the condition they become indentured servants for a term of 99-years.

In the years that followed, these entrepreneurs developed this into a plan that would allow them to bring in many non-Mexicans. The slaves back in the United States figured that being an indentured servant was better then being a slave. In 1835 Morgan returned to New York to recruit more workers for his settlement.

One such ex-slave, a twenty year old named Emily West, was a pretty, intelligent sophisticated woman. She was mulatto (part white) and according to some records, she volunteered to be indentured, most probably to escape the prejudice against her mixed race. And, as was the custom for an indentured worker at the time, she changed her last name to that of Morgan.

James Morgan had established his settlement, called New Washington, near the mouth of the San Jacinto River. By 1836, Texas was totally involved in it's revolution to gain independence from Mexico. James Morgan freely gave cattle, oranges, and assorted grains to Sam Houston and his army. One parcel of Morgan's land extended into San Jacinto Bay. It was and still is called Morgan's Point and from it flatboats were loaded with supplies for Houston.

Due to his aid to the army, Morgan was appointed a Colonel in the Texas army. He was assigned to the Port of Galveston (some 30 miles away) in March of 1836 to guard Texas refugees and fugitive government officials. In order to continue shipping supplies to Houston's line, Morgan left Emily in charge of loading flatboats destined to feed the Texas army.

When General Santa Anna moved his men into position to attack the Texas rebels he knew to be nearby on the afternoon of April 18, he passed through New Washington. It was mostly deserted by then. One of those that remained behind, however, was Emily, and Santa Anna was immediately struck by her beauty. The next morning, after his men helped themselves to the crops and cattle, Santa Anna set about securing one more spoil of war - Emily. He captured her and a young yellow boy named Turner who was loading yet another flatboat headed for Houston's army.

Santa Anna cajoled Turner to lead his Mexican scouts to the Houston encampment. But as they were departing, Emily convinced Turner to escape from Santa Anna's men and rush to Houston's camp to inform him of the Mexican generals arrival.

General Santa Anna believed himself quite the ladies man. And although still married to a woman in Mexico, he remarried one of his teenaged captives from his Texas campaign. But he had been without his most recent bride for two weeks now. Emily looked like she would make a very suitable replacement.

Thus, he ordered the immediate setting up of his encampment on the plains of the San Jacinto despite protestations from his colonels who insisted the location violated all principles of wartime strategy. And they were right.

Houston, upon hearing of Santa Anna's location from Turner, moved his troops into the woods within a scant mile of the beguiled general's headquarters. On the morning of April 21, Houston climbed a tree to spy into the Mexican camp. There he saw Emily preparing a champagne breakfast for Santa Anna, and reportedly remarked, "I hope that slave girl makes him [Santa Anna] neglect his business and keeps him in bed all day."

Later that day, when Houston's army attacked, General Santa Anna was in fact caught with his pants down and the Mexican army was caught completely by surprise. Emily West Morgan survived the battle and made her way back to New Washington. Two days later, James Morgan, who had not heard of the battle, returned from Galveston and Emily told him of her ordeal and the outcome of the last great battle. The colonel was so impressed with Emily's heroism, he repealed her indenture and gave her a passport back to New York.


There's a yellow rose in Texas

That I am going to see

No other darky knows her

No one only me

She cried so when I left her

It like to broke my heart

And if I ever more find her

We nevermore will part.


She's the sweetest rose of color

This darky ever knew

Her eyes are bright as diamonds

They sparkle like the dew

You may talk about dearest May

And sing of Rosa Lee

But the yellow rose of Texas

Beats the belles of Tennessee.

Where the Rio Grande is flowing

And the starry skies are bright

She walks along the river

In the quiet summer night

She thinks if I remember

When we parted long ago

I promised to come back again

And not to leave her so.

Oh now I am agoing to find her

For my heart is full of woe

And we will sing the song together

We sung so long ago

We will play the banjo gaily

And will sing the song of yore

And the yellow rose of Texas

Shall be mine forevermore.

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